Now that self-proclaimed prophet Jim Wallis is hawking his newest book, he’s decided to sorta, kinda, maybe come out for marriage equality. Because, you know, the young people support it. Sarah Posner, longtime Wallis critic and senior editor at Religion Dispatches, isn’t having it:
[Wallis is] back—with another book to sell, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good.
In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Jaweed Kaleem last week, Wallis described what motivated him to write yet another book about How Everything Would Be Divine If Everyone Listened To Jim Wallis. (Especially you, ladies!) “The vitriol. The screaming. The polarization. The paralyzation. The hate. The fear. And I thought we’ve lost something really significant, this ancient idea called the common good.”
Oh, man, don’t you wish all those gay and lesbian people who simply wanted to have the same rights as straight people would stop with all their vitriol and screaming? Jeez.
As part of his book roll-out with the Huff Po team, Wallis gave a video interview to Marc Lamont Hill, who opened it with reminding Wallis that “you’re a leader of the religious left.” (Primer on why that’s not so here; see also: the many religious leaders who supported marriage equality—civilly!—long before Wallis.) In true “leader” form, when asked by Hill about same-sex marriage, Wallis replied, “this issue is changing rapidly,” noting that “young believers, 62% of young evangelicals now support marriage equality.” Because that’s what leaders do. They wait for public opinion to tell them how to lead. And then they wait for an interviewer to push them to speak plain English—and even then they use behind-covering doublespeak.
Wallis finally responded after Hill continued to press him on the specific issue of marriage equality. Writes Posner:
“I think that’s what equal protection for many, many people, including young evangelicals, is becoming marriage equality.” (“Leading” again.) Wallis went on: “What I’m saying is let’s not just argue that issue back and forth.” No, that never solves anything, does it? “Let’s go to a deeper—to marriage that’s inclusive. I want it to be inclusive. So my answer is yes. But I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive. And that’s where I think the country is going.”
Is your marriage deeply committed enough for Jim Wallis? Is it deeply committed enough for gay people to get married, too?
To read Posner’s full report in all its brilliance, click here.
Of course, Wallis isn’t the only public figure to jump onto the marriage equality bandwagon after it’s become, for all intents and purposes, a settled issue. But frankly, most public figures don’t claim to be in the vanguard of progressive Christianity.
I’m already seeing jubilant Facebook and Twitter posts about Wallis’s newfound quasi-support for marriage equality, but forgive me if I don’t join the party. I’m more than a little cynical about this tepid change of heart, or whether it really amounts to a change of heart at all.
As Posner points out, whatever you think of Wallis’s flip-flop on the freedom to marry, you can’t honestly call it leadership. And it certainly isn’t “prophetic,” as Wallis is fond of styling himself. It’s blatant opportunism, nothing more.